When it comes to relationships, conflict is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be emotionally distressing. Couples can disagree and, yes, even fight while still showing compassion and respect for each other. In fact, the relationships who don’t have any conflicts are the ones who don’t last. According to psychologist Deborah Grody, “Relationships that can’t be saved are relationships where the flame has completely gone out, or it wasn’t there in the first place,” she says. When one or both partners are indifferent toward their relationship, they don’t care enough to even fight”.
From this, I took away that fights are okay and in fact are healthy as long as we can manage them in a healthy way. They are able to bring you closer together because expressing anger to your romantic partner will cause short-term anger, but also entices and honest conversations that will actually benefit your relationship in the long run.
If you want to navigate conflict with your partner in a healthier and more productive way, keep these things in mind during your next argument:
Be curious about your fights
Let’s take this scenario. You and your significant other have your busy life of school, work or just hanging out with some friends. You call them after that long day or, you see them. One of you can’t wait to tell the other about the day while the other partner avoiding it- just needing a couple minutes to decompress after getting home recently or expecting your call. This leads to one person accusing the other of “not caring” while the other is feelings attacked. This scenario I hope got some nods as different variations of this scenario occurs to the most of us. (Literally fill in anything your S.O does that irritates you often). This shows that a lot of the times “our” fights or arguments tend to be repetitive or a resurface of the same problem/thing.
Instead, try to figure out what triggers these similar and repetitive fights (yea, you know what they are) and figure out ways to compromise instead of letting these conflicts erupt. Taking the old scenario, rather than doing the same script over and over, notice that you fight when one-person dives into their day when you see them and figure out a way to handle it. In other words, If the same Sh*t keeps happening /repetitive it’s not just him and it’s not just you… it’s the situation. Your conflict can be avoided by being aware of what the cause is and then can be managed/adjusted.
Schedule a time for conflict
Even if you and your S.O are great communicators and are open with any dialogue, conflicts are still going to happen. And trust me when they do, it’s helpful to choose a time to talk through problems. If a fights occurs, when it starts to turn from argument to fight or from discourse to argument keep this statement in mind and say, “Let’s pick it up this evening, or another time when there is time to discuss things”
Setting aside time to work out your disagreement allows both partners the space to regroup and prepare. Get your thoughts in order and think about the best ways to communicate your feelings in a calmer, rational way. This well help avoid any defensive or accusatory feelings (depending on what side of the argument you’re on) Emotions can cause high distress because sometimes things are said on impulse, but the words stay with us.
Call a time out if you or your partner needs one
Do you dramatically hang up when you’re in an argument? How about run off/ leave the room? “K .”? or …”ight”? Yep were all guilty and if it’s not you maybe your partner does this. This is completely normal. When in an argument there is fight, flight or freeze. Stay and argue/make your point, leave/hang up, or stay but stay QUIETTT. Idk about you but the last two always tick me off. This is because if one goes into flight or freeze mode while the other is trying to problem solve or make their point, it can frustrate the problem solver and in fact can escalate the fight because now it seems like they aren’t listening nor caring.
Instead, ask for a time out but frame it in a way that doesn’t make your partner feel like you’re simply walking away. You can say or they can say, “Okay, I want to have this conversation, I need like 10 min to calm down, I love you I’m not going anywhere. We are going to come back to this”. If the flight or freeze is not your but your significant other talk to them on this so you both can have an understanding that when a time out is needed not to take it personally.
Make request instead of complaints
“I THINK IT’S FUNNY HOW…” or “YOU ALWAYS…” sound familiar? Rather than asking your partner to do something you’d like them to do, people jump to make accusations. Let me brake it to you, you’re not going to get what you want because of how you’re asking for it. It’s so much easier for people to ask their S.O “why” they never do something/ why they didn’t do that instead of simply requesting that they do it. Saying, “I’m not feeling great. I’m stressed out would you mind coming to my dorm to spend some times w me (or if you live together you can say, would you mind picking some stuff up)?” is more direct and respectful than putting your loved one down for his/her failure to meet your needs. Requesting will also result in a higher turn out of your S.O completing the task.
Listen for clarification
I’ve been talking a lot about space and time outs. Now, when the time comes to sit down and talk the most important thing is to listen WITHOUT interrupting. It’s harder than it seems. After they are done ask for clarification if there is something, they said you don’t understand. If you or your S.O has a problem with listening effectively, one way to help this issue out is for the person who is listening saying, “What makes you feel like I’m not listening?” this will be much more effective than saying “well, I’m listening what do you want me to say?’. These small adjustments have big impacts.
Learn the right way to apologize to your S.O
We have different apology languages. Sometimes it’s not enough to recognize that you’ve hurt your loved one and you owe them an apology: you have to know them enough to know the apology that will fit their needs. Some people like big gestures, others like smaller gestures like giving food or snack at their front dorm while others are okay with just verbal affirmations like, “I’m sorry, I will try my best to take steps to not do that again”. It all depends on the person. The whole thing is figuring out what is meaningful to your partner and what is meaningful to you.
Relationships are tough man, they require work and figuring things out about someone else that isn’t you. But don’t think of fights as a problem that cause more problems. But as learning experiences that are tools created to strengthen and test the respectfulness of your relationships.